Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2002/12/09

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Subject: [Leica] Nachtwey in war photographer
From: "John David Emmett" <>
Date: Mon, 09 Dec 2002 11:25:42 -0700

I rarely get baited into these kind of discussions but I just had to say
that DS's notes on Nachtwey are petty, inaccurate and small minded, to be
kind about it.
To call his discussion with his printer browbeating is the biggest
misrepresentation of a conversation I could imagine. They talked quietly and
civilly. You could tell that they are both perfectionists and wanted to get
the most out of the print.
Anyone who judges someone else solely based on how they come off in a movie
might be a little hasty in their judgement. I'm sure Mr. Nachtwey isn't
fretting at home about not having the good fortune to meet Dante. 
And lastly, if you think his subjects are too distracted to notice him, I
suggest you go to Kosovo, Rwanda, Afghanistan, etc. and stick a 16-35mm in
the face of a grieving family or armed soldiers and see the response you
get. It ain't as easy as it looks. 
Anyone who appreciates good photography respects Nachtwey for what he is: an
amazing photojournalist with immense drive, talent and dedication. 
Anyway, you do yourself a disservice by being so petty, condescending and
John David


Dante Stella wrote: 

>7.  The making of Nachtwey's gallery show, in which the two main scenes
>are (a) his browbeating his printer and (b) a vignette of his mutual
>admiration society with his best friend.

>Despite this, I learned a couple of things.
>1.  I now have no interest in meeting James Nachtwey.  He is about as
>unstimulating a conversationalist and unemotional person as I have
>seen.  In fact, he seems to be shell-shocked.
>2.  Nachtwey describes his pictures as being possible because "people
>trust me because I am giving them a voice."  You can draw your own
>conclusions, but after watching his techniques,  I think his pictures
>are possible because people are so distracted by what is going on that
>they cannot react to him, not that they trust him or want a voice. 
>This suggests to me that half of war photography is getting over the
>fear of being blown to bits; the subject matter is just being there.
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